Sports parents often get a bad rap. But being the parent of a youth athlete is hard. We invest, both financially and emotionally. We tend to live and die with every play and each whistle. We question coaches and show little mercy to game officials.
We oftentime bring misplaced passion and energy to practice and game day. We teach while in motion, at the grocery store, or watching games on television.
Some of us have perfected the art of not taking youth sports and activities too seriously. Those folks are to be commended and emulated. Most of us simply lose our minds in the spirit of competition. We experience probably the most exhilarating times of our lives supporting our young ones.
We want the best for our children and their teammates. We want to win and we want our child to contribute to the team's success. We mull over playing time and coach's decisions. We think we know the rules better than the refs. We damn sure don't know any more than the coach drawing up the Xs and Os.
I'm not bashing parents of youth athletes. It takes great sacrifice to support a child's athletic endeavors. I've committed my fair share of personal fouls as a sports parent. But be mindful of your behavior at games and try to model good sportsmanship for young people, especially your own.
I have read articles and blogs on the top tips for parents of youth sports. I have real world experience as well. I've learned some strategies to help cope with the adrenaline, anxiety and other emotions associated with competition.
By no means do I feel I am an expert of sportsmanship in youth sports. But I do believe in some tried and true measures to simply ease the stress of game day:
1. Just clap and enjoy the game. Cheer. Never boo or hiss. Give game officials the benefit of the doubt.
2. If possible, find a new routine during a child's practice or personal training time. Don't sit in and watch or yell. Trust the coach/trainer, your child and the process. The young athlete will appreciate the space.
3. Refrain from lecturing after practices or games. Even before practice, button it up.
DISCLAIMER: I broke this rule just two days before posting this blog. My 11-year-old daughter, Emilee, needed no reminders before practice to work on her free throws, defense and jump shots. None.
4. Unplug. Turn off the phone and tablet. Put up the video camera. Be in the moment. Again, I am guilty of using video to capture every single moment of my children's athletic endeavors. The day I unplugged, Emilee made a layup with her non-dominant left hand during a game for the first time. Was I bummed I missed the feat on video? Nope. I saw it in real time and my child knows she made the shot. Now she has the confidence to do it again. Nothing else matters.
5. Remember, without refs it's just a scrimmage. Take it easy on the officials. Give your coach grace. No one is perfect. It's our job as sports parents to model good sportsmanship for our children. Test yourself. Be mindful of your behavior in front of children. Use these few tips to become a better sports parent.